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Game Idea: Religious Conversion

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Game Idea: Religious Conversion

Postby Kettling » Wed Feb 29, 2012 10:50 am

Basic Game State

The game has no map, it consists of a group of "Believers" each with their own unique, fixed ID number and the following variables for each believer:

"R" -- Religion (32 bit integer, explained below)
"X" -- A resource (floating point quantity of material carried by this believer, 0 to 10)
"Y" -- A different resource (floating point, as X)
"Z" -- A third resource (floating point, as X)
"B" -- Bling, stuff that impresses people (small integer, 0 to 3)
"G" -- Gear, as in combat gear, stuff that kills people (small integer, 0 to 3)

Players and Religions

Each player has a "Religion" which is a 32 bit integer, represented as a bitmap. e.g. 01001111-11111101-00100100-11100100 represents a religion (randomly generated). We might consider that each bit in the religion bitmap represents some fundamental tenet either fervently supported or fervently opposed by the individual Believer. We don't need to worry about exactly what those tenets are (best not to offend anyone in the real world), but in general Believers with more bits in common will agree with each other and get along with each other better, and Believers with more bits different to each other will disagree on more issues and thus be more likely to be hostile.

Initial game setup requires that player religions are all suitably distinct and not too close to each other. In a two player game we can merely set one player to all 0's and the other to all 1's, but in multi-player games where the number of players is 4 or 8 we can split up the bits using some suitable rule. Believers are considered "True Believers" if their religion exactly matches a player's religion and these True Believers come under the control of that player's AI, other Believers are considered NPC's (i.e. Non Player Characters) and they are not under the control of any player, but they follow a known strategy driven by the game engine. In the initial game setup, each player gets a small number of True Believers while other NPC Believers are randomly assigned a Religion.

The objective of the game is for each player to maximize the number of True Believers aligned to their religion in the final turn, and minimize the numbers aligned to other player's religions. In addition, NPC's that are close to a player's religion in the final turn are worth reduced points (e.g. only 4 or less bits different in their religious outlook might be worth 1/2).


Every turn, every Believer collects some resources. A player can choose which resource each True Believer is collecting (i.e. X, Y, or Z), and can team up a group of Believers so their resource collection becomes more efficient as the team gets larger (economy of scale). In addition, resource collection gets more efficient for each Believer who has been collecting the same resource for a greater number of turns (improved experience and specialization).


Believers carrying two units of one resource and two units of another resource (e.g. X+X+Y+Y) can convert those into one unit of either "Bling" or "Gear". This process takes two turns. Believers carrying one unit of all resources (e.g. X+Y+Z) can convert these more efficiently into one unit of either "Bling" or "Gear". This more efficient process takes just one turn. A single resource by itself cannot be converted into anything.

Encounters, Trade and Combat

Random encounters occur every turn, based on random pairings of Believers. Sometimes players will encounter their own True Believers, sometimes other players, sometimes NPC's. Players are not told whether they are encountering another player or not, they are told the unique ID of both sides of the encounter and they are told the religion bitmap of both sides of the encounter. Using the unique ID a player can quickly recognize when they are encountering themselves, and using the religion bitmap can statistically infer the existence of other players.

Once an encounter has happened, both sides of the encounter simultaneously reveal a "reaction code" as follows:

"G" -- Generous. Select stuff to give away to the other side.
"T" -- Trade. Make equal resource exchanges with the other side, until both parties have better resource mix.
"N" -- Neutral. Break off the encounter and avoid dealing with this.
"F" -- Fraud. Pretend to be a G or a T but actually attempt to steal resources.
"H" -- Hostile. Can we kill 'em now? Yes, now!

If either side is hostile (H), then we go into combat, and the winner is whoever has the most "Gear". Some resources are destroyed, but the winner takes what's left (up to their carrying capacity). If "Gear" is equal then both die, and all resources are destroyed.

Presuming no combat, if either side is neutral (N) the encounter terminates early.

If both sides go for fraud (F) then some resources are destroyed and neither comes out ahead.

If one side goes for fraud (F) and the other tries either (T) or (G) then the fraudster comes out well ahead and gets the lion's share of the resources in that encounter.

If both sides trade (T) then resources are exchanged equally, to best improve the mix of both parties (but there may be situations where no useful trade is possible, such as when one party has a perfect mix already).

If both sides gift (G) then they simply hand the designated resources to each other (useful when a player encounters themselves and wants to redistribute).

Every time an NPC survives the encounter, they will adjust their religion bitmap as follows:
* If they ended up better off after the encounter than previously, then they randomly select a bit and align it with the religion of the Believer they just encountered (i.e. they now agree on some religious tenet that they did not agree on before).
* If they ended up worse off, then it goes the opposite way and misaligns a randomly selected bit (i.e. they now disagree on a tenet, where previously they would have agreed).

Thus, Believers who are generally helpful to other NPC Believers will encourage those NPC's to move closer to their own religion. Believers who are fraudulent will tend to push the NPCs away from their religion. NPC's also encounter each other so the effect spreads through the crowd.

Note that True Believers will not normally change religion under any circumstances, but players MAY issue orders to their True Believers forcing them to change religion, possibly for strategic purposes or to hide their religion from other players. Doing this too often will deplete the player's stock of True Believers.

Well Known NPC Strategy

The algorithm that drives the NPC's will be visible, and will follow a somewhat random strategy with favourable reactions more probable as religious bitmaps are more similar, and unfavourable reactions (e.g. F, H) more probable as religious bitmaps show greater difference. For two random 32 bit numbers, on average 16 bits will be different, and 16 the same, so this is the 50% neutral level of indifference. Suppose and NPC Believer encounters another Believer and 8 bits are different, with 24 bits the same... this is 75% similar, thus more likely to result in a favourable encounter. In addition, if the other believer is carrying "Bling", the probability of favourable reaction gets even better.

NPC's also follow a strategy of collecting one resource for a while, then collecting another resource for a while and trying to produce "Bling" and "Gear" when they can. Thus, NPC's will improve their chances of favourable reactions with each other and also improve their chance of surviving combat. NPC's will never choose to start a fight if they have no points of Gear at all, because that's just suicide.

Overall Player Strategy

In the early turns players want to collect as much of one particular resource they can, to give themselves the best chance of successful trade. They want to overall give favourable reactions where they can in the hope of swinging more NPC's to their cause early in the game. As NPC's align themselves to the player's religion the game actually gets easier because those NPC's will be helpful and trade resources. During these early phases players want to build up a statistical profile of religious sentiment and try to identify the other players (even figure out how many other players are in the game). There isn't much value in being generous to True Believers belonging to the other players, because they don't change their religion anyhow and you are just throwing your resources to the other player. Bling is useful in the middle rounds as you want to convert more NPC's.

In later parts of the game, hopefully you have enough Gear produced to go on the rampage. By this time, you have a good idea of the other players, and they probably have a good idea who you are, so the best you can do is just kill them off. In the end-game, most NPC's are partisan to one player or another, so Gear is what you need here, and the Bling has lost its value.

All comments welcome...
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Joined: Fri Dec 23, 2011 5:35 am

Re: Game Idea: Religious Conversion

Postby mleise » Tue Mar 27, 2012 6:07 pm

I find it interesting. It needs to be fleshed out eventually (how do the believers encounter each other? what's the precise effect of "bling"), but the general idea could work. As we are likely to visualize the game it has to be said whether the game is played on a board or if the believers are represented as tables with the encounters in a separate section of the screen.

Also I think if you translated this game to taste in music, the bits could become meaningful and funny.
"female/male", "melodic", "has rap", "has singing", "emotional/cool", "parodied", "cheerful/sad", "group/solo", "beat based", "instruments in the focus", "showing off", "mainstream", "story telling"

Say an NPC starts with something like "cool, cheerful non-mainstream music by female rappers that are showing off" and a player converts it with "emotional, sad by mainstream singing boy groups", so that it listens to "emotional, sad, mainstream music by singing boy groups that show off". With the right attributes, I guess some hilarious tastes in music could emerge :D .
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Joined: Mon Sep 27, 2010 6:18 pm

Re: Game Idea: Religious Conversion

Postby Kettling » Sat Mar 31, 2012 6:36 am

I like the idea of using the bit codes to represent musical taste, because it makes it easy to explain tribal type allegiances in a way that is not too politically charged but still easily recognizable... and kind of fun too. For that matter, maybe rejig the whole thing to be about music and band and getting people to like your style. "Gear" can be musical gear, better guitars, bigger amps, drum machine with more buttons and what have you. We all know music is more of a gearsport these days, not talent right?

Lots of game balance tradeoffs would need to be tweaked, so a bit of experimentation would be needed to adjust the outcomes and prevent one simple strategy becoming dominant. Anyhow, I'm just sort of throwing the idea up in the air; I'm glad you find it interesting.

My ideal visualization would be to have maybe four players each marked out on a corner of the screen and as they get more supporters their corner fills up, but also the undecided NPCs would wander around in the middle getting closer to one corner or another. I was thinking that encounters should be random, but maybe players could have some control over who they encounter with. Maybe in a music scenario, they put out advertising and that attracts people to their gigs.
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Joined: Fri Dec 23, 2011 5:35 am

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